Fort Bayard was founded by the US Army in 1866 to protect new settlers along the Apache Trail. African-American "Buffalo Soldiers" were the the main force in place to provided security against Native American attacks on settlers during the 19th century settlement period.
The fort was part of a US Army heliographic communication network stretching from Arizona to Texas. The installation of heliograph stations was overseen by 2nd Lieutenant John. J. "Black Jack" Pershing, who later became General of the Armies which is the highest possible rank in the US Army. Other notable soldiers stationed at Fort Bayard included General George Cook, Colonel Walter Loving, Sergeant James C. Cooney, and Buffalo Soldier and Medal of Honor recipient, Clinton Greaves.
After threats subsided, the facility was converted into the US Army's first tuberculosis sanitarium and transferred to the Department of the Surgeon General. It later became a VA hospital in 1922. The fort was briefly reactivated during WWII and many German prisoners were held there from 1943 to 1945. In 1965 the Veteran's Administration determined they no longer needed the facility, but instead of permanently closing and negatively impacting the local economy, it was transferred to the State of New Mexico.
The original fort grounds and buildings now stand vacant. There are some restorations underway, activities and tours are supported by a local historic preservation society, and there are reenactments on the parade ground. But for the most part, the original complex is empty and buildings sit silently. A small section, including the historic and extensive 16 acre cemetery, was transferred back to the US Department of Veteran's Affairs and has since received major updates and landscaping improvements.